With more and more of the world’s population migrating to cities, there is increasing pressure on traffic congestion, environmental quality and health issues in urban areas. The Alan Turing Institute and the Toyota Mobility Foundation are collaborating on a project to transform the way cities are planned and managed, using the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

This new project, Optimising flow within mobility systems with AI, is part of the Turing’s new AI programme. Its aim is to transition complex traffic management from static systems into dynamic, optimised systems, managed in real time across many different types of mobility.

The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. At the same time, cities themselves are changing with more ride-sharing platforms being used and shifts in mobility choices, with more cycling and same-day delivery fleets, which dramatically affect traffic patterns. And while environmental standards are improving, urban congestion needs to be managed to maintain public health.

Traffic management and the optimisation of traffic signals in cities, both for vehicles and pedestrians, have long relied on traditional modelling and forecasting methods. Real-time events, changing conditions and evolving mobility patterns mean that existing systems can no longer keep pace and adapt to new demands.

However, through working with real-time data and communications, and using cutting-edge data science techniques, city planners have gained new tools and the potential to dramatically improve the way our cities are run.

Spanning 18 months, the new collaboration brings together researchers and software engineers with expertise in mathematics and data interaction, from the Turing the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, and mobility expertise from the Toyota Mobility Foundation. They will be working with data providers and Government managers underpinning Future Cities, and drawing on the Turing and partner universities’ ongoing work in this field with the Greater London Authority.

Potential outcomes include:

  • Integrating an AI system for traffic lights/signals control
  • Building a platform for interactive data manipulation to monitor and predict traffic behaviour, and to test planning scenarios
  • Finding mechanisms for fleet operators and cities to work together, for example by sharing data about congestion or pollution hotspots, and rerouting around problems before they become serious

By combining real-time operations with periodic monitoring and long-term planning, the project’s outcomes will help urban planners as they prepare for the future and manage current conditions. A data-driven traffic management system should help optimise air quality, reduce energy consumption and improve system capacity and resilience.

Alan Wilson, CEO of the Alan Turing Institute and lead researcher said: “Our vision is that city planners and operators should have a system that shows them real-time data feeds, lets them analyse how the city is working, integrates machine learning models so that they can test out scenarios and gives them insight into when behaviour patterns are changing.

“Because of data and new technology, transport patterns can now change dramatically in a short time. We hope that this will lead to improvements in health and mobility for city populations, as well as safety and efficiency in traffic management.”

The UK Government’s AI Sector Deal and Grand Challenge will help sectors boost their productivity through new technologies, helping people develop the skills they need and lead the world in safe, ethical use of data. Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, AI Sector Deal and Grand Challenge, this is exactly the type of project we want to see developed in the UK. By developing and embedding these technologies into our everyday lives, we will help build a Britain fit for the future.”

Ryan Klem, Director of Programs for the Toyota Mobility Foundation, added: “While there has been significant focus on AI inside the vehicle, we are excited to have the opportunity to work with the Alan Turing Institute to bring data science and AI to a complementing facet of mobility: Infrastructure. We believe mobility is critical to promoting societal progress and improving lives around the world, and this project represents an important step to improve the social good and help achieve harmony in mobility across all modes for all citizens.”

Source: Toyota.